Page images

" 8

needs. In addition to the fact of his familiarity with the Bible are his own declarations, and the statements of others, respecting his diligent Bible study.

Colonel W. H. Crook, who was for years President Lincoln's highly esteemed and trusted bodyguard, says: “The daily life of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln usually commenced at eight o'clock, and immediately upon dressing the President would go into the library, where he would sit in his favorite chair in the middle of the room and read a chapter or two of his Bible. I think I am safe in saying that this was President Lincoln's invariable custom-at least it was such during the time I was on duty with him." +

Mr. Alexander Williamson, who was engaged as tutor in the Lincoln family in Washington, said: “Mr. Lincoln very frequently studied the Bible with the aid of Cruden's Concordance, which lay on his table.'

It is undoubtedly true that Mr. Lincoln had fixed times for Bible study as here stated by Colonel Crook and Mr. Williamson, and that at such times he put aside every care and thought, and gave whole-hearted and undivided attention to the teachings of God's Word. But in addition to this it was his custom to pick up his Bible as opportunities were presented between public duties and whenever a few minutes could be given to its perusal, and in some secluded nook or at an open window at the evening hour, read and meditate upon its teachings. Some striking instances in which this occurred are here given.

Elizabeth Keckley, thirty years a slave and four years a companion and dressmaker for Mrs. Lincoln, in the White House, says:

"One day Mr. Lincoln came into the room where I was fitting a dress for Mrs. Lincoln. His step was slow and heavy and his face was sad. Like a tired child he threw himself upon a sofa and shaded his eyes with his hands. He was a complete picture of dejection. Mrs. Lincoln observing his troubled look asked, 'Where have you been, father?'

7 Memories of the White House, p. 15. 8 Lincoln's use of the Bible, p. 8.

“ 'To the War Department,' was the brief almost sullen answer.

“'Any news?'

“'Yes, plenty of news, but no good news. It is dark, dark everywhere.'

"He reached forth one of his long arms and took a small Bible from a stand near the head of the sofa, opened the pages of the Holy Book and soon was absorbed in reading them. A quarter of an hour passed, and on glancing at the sofa the face of the President seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone and the countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope. The change was so marked that I could not but wonder at it, and wonder led to the desire to know what book of the Bible afforded so much comfort to the reader. Making the search for a missing article an excuse, I walked gently around the sofa and looking into the open book I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was reading that Divine Comforter Job. He read with Christian eagerness and the courage and hope that he derived from the inspired pages made him a new man. I almost imagined that I could hear the Lord speaking to him from out the whirlwind battle, ‘Gird up thy loins now, like a man; I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me.'"

On May 4th, 1862, Mr. Lincoln, with Secretaries Chase and Stanton, made a trip to Fortress Monroe on an important mission. During their sojourn at that place some very exciting events occurred, including the taking of Norfolk and the consequent destruction by the Confederates of the ironclad Merrimac, which had been until the advent of the Monitor, such a terror to Government vessels. On their return from that trip, though all were at a high tension, Mr. Lincoln withdrew from the company and when found was, according to the statement of a Mr. Jay, sitting in a secluded corner of the vessel, absorbed in reading his pocket edition of the New Testament.

9 Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes, pp. 118-120.

In the summer of 1864, Hon. Joshua F. Speed, one of Mr. Lincoln's closest friends, was invited to spend a night with the President and his family at the Soldiers' Home, near the city of Washington. Respecting an incident which occurred during that visit Mr. Speed says:

"As I entered the room, near night, he was sitting near a window intently reading his Bible. Approaching I said, 'I am glad to see you so profitably engaged.'

“'Yes,' he said, 'I am profitably engaged.'

“ 'Well,' said I, 'if you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say I have not.'

“Looking me earnestly in the face and placing his hand on my shoulder, he said: You are wrong, Speed. Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.' "10

Dr. Robert Browne, to whom reference already has been made, says:

“Mr. Lincoln read his Bible every day. He held it to be his treasure and indisputable authority. In its texts and principles he founded the basis of every argument or declaration he ever used against slavery. He did this, too, in his remarkable progress and high distinction as a lawyer. In the same way he grounded his belief and framed his reasoning on his land and debt reforms in profound respect and obedience to divine authority. He referred often to Matt. 7:12. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.'” 11

This habitual Bible study caused Mr. Lincoln to become so familiar with the Bible that he could often use passages and incidents to great advantage in conversation with those who called upon him at the White House. An exceedingly interesting instance of this is given by Thomas F. Pendleton, who was for many years doorkeeper at the White House:

10 Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, p. 32. 11 Abraham Lincoln and the Men of his Time, Vol. II., p. 633.

“One day a man with a very swarthy complexion came in, wearing a silk hat and a Prince Albert coat. You would have taken him at first glance for a minister of the gospel. He commenced finding fault with Mr. Stanton, accusing him of not carrying out the order that President Lincoln had given two weeks before to have a certain man liberated from prison who had been sentenced to death but was pardoned.

"Mr. Lincoln listened patiently to his complaint and then said emphatically: 'If it had not been for me that man would now be in his grave. Now, sir, you claim to be a philanthropist. If you will get your Bible and turn to the 30th chapter of Proverbs, the tenth verse, you will read these words: 'Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee and thou be found guilty. Whereupon the man got huffy and went away. But as he went out he said angrily, “There is no such passage in the Bible.' 'Oh, yes,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'I think you will find it in the 30th chapter of Proverbs and at the tenth verse.'

“This was late in the afternoon and I thought no more of the occurrence. Next morning I was at Mr. Lincoln's office door as usual at eight o'clock and heard some one calling out, 'Oh, Pendleton, I say Pendleton, come in here. When I went inside Mr. Lincoln said to me: 'Wait a minute.' He stepped quickly into the private part of the house and soon reappeared with his Bible in his hand. He then sat down and read to me that identical passage he had quoted to the philanthropist, and sure enough it was found to be in the 30th chapter of Proverbs, and at the tenth verse.

"In those days I was not much of a Bible reader, but in 1865 I decided that all-important question whether or not I should not be a follower of the Lord Jesus. I commenced reading a little old Bible that I had bought at the secondhand store. One day I came across that same passage which Mr. Lincoln had quoted to the angry philanthropist.

[ocr errors]


The whole occurrence came back to me and I thought what a just man was the President. He was not even willing for me to be in doubt as to his correct quotation of a Bible passage but must needs take his precious time to prove himself right in my eyes.

During his service in Congress, on May 21st, 1848, in a somewhat infelicitous correspondence with Rev. J. M. Peck, with reference to some acts under consideration, Mr. Lincoln said: "Possibly you consider those acts too small for notice. Would you venture to so consider them had they been committed by any nation on earth against the humblest of our people? I know you would not. Then I ask, is the precept, 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, obsolete? of no force? of no application?'13

During the preceding year, in a speech in Congress on the tariff, December ist, 1847, Mr. Lincoln said: "In the early days of our race the Almighty said to the first of our race, 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread'; and since then, if we except the light and air of heaven, no good thing has been or can be enjoyed by us without having first cost


In his eulogy on Henry Clay, Mr. Lincoln said: “Pharaoh's country was cursed with plagues and his hosts were lost in the Red Sea for striving to retain a captive people who had already served them for more than four hundred years. May this disaster never befall us !":15

In his speech at Peoria, Illinois, October 16th, 1854, he said: “God did not place good and evil before man, telling him to make his choice. On the contrary, He did tell him there was one tree of the fruit of which he should not eat, upon pain of certain death."16

12 Thirty-six Years in the White House, pp. 25-26. 13 Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II., p. 26. 14 Ibid., Vol. I., p. 306. 15 Ibid., Vol. II., p. 177. 16 Ibid., p. 253.

« PreviousContinue »